Matthew 21:28–32: Doing the Will of the Father

by Jun 24, 2024Premium, The Gospel of Matthew

Download Complete PDF Now


After Jesus turns the tables on the chief priests and elders in the previous passage (Matt. 21:23–27), he presses his point. Where they demanded Jesus’ credentials of authority, but were unable to answer Jesus’ question about John’s authority, Jesus now raises his own question: How have they responded to the authority of God? The religious leaders would promise obedience “right away,” but Jesus uses a parable to question whether they are truly obeying “all the way.” Here, Jesus shows that a promise of obedience is not enough, since true faith includes knowledge, assent, and trust.

Discussion Questions

1. How does the description of this man’s two “children” suggest something of the father’s tender love for his sons (v. 28)? How should we react to the first son’s blunt response to his father: “I will not” (v. 29a)? How does this response reflect the shocking scandal of the sins of the tax collectors and prostitutes? What does the eventual change of mind of the first son suggest about the hope of repentance for sinners (v. 29b)?

2. How does the second son’s initial response differ from the first son’s (v. 30a)? How does this response echo the prompt responses of faith and obedience among Old Testament saints? To what degree do you think that this passage echoes elements of Abraham’s response to God when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22)? How does Abraham’s faithful obedience contrast with the failure of the second son to follow through with his promise (v. 30b)?

3. When Jesus asks the chief priests and elders which son did the will of his father, what is their answer (v. 31a)? Do you think that they recognized the point that Jesus was making by this parable? Why or why not? How does Jesus compare the first son to the tax collectors and prostitutes? How does Jesus apply the second son to the chief priests and elders? How does the sin of pride blind us from seeing our sin?

4. When Jesus brings up John in v. 32, how does this help connect Jesus’ point here to what he asked about the baptism of John in the previous passage (Matt. 21:25)? In other words, how is the authority of John connected with the repentance of the tax collectors and prostitutes, as well as with the unbelief of the chief priests and elders? Where are you unwilling to respond in repentance and faith to the Word of God?